Have yourself a GREEN little Christmas

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

ALBANY -- When you think of Christmas, a red and green color scheme comes to mind.

for those concerned with the environment, the green part is gaining popularity.

Julia Bowles, director of Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful, says that many of the steps people can take to conserve have benefits that may not be obvious at first glance.

"I think during the Christmas season we need to be particularly mindful to recycle, not just to recycle, but it can also cut down on crimes," Bowles said. "You get a new computer and if you don't break that box down and recycle it and you put it by your trash receptacle instead, everybody that wants to break into your house is going to know you got a new computer or a new TV set.

"Recycling works in a positive manner in more than one way for us."

Keep Albany-Dougherty beautiful has come up with the three R's for keeping the green in Christmas: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

But that doesn't mean you have to rub the shine off the ornaments, so to speak.

For instance, reducing can be as simple as planning so that you don't waste food -- those leftovers that seem to never go away -- or turning off the Christmas lights during the daylight hours.

And if you put up Christmas lights, you might want to invest in the newer ones that are more environmentally friendly.

"They are environmentally much better. Your old light bulbs have mercury in them and that is a hazardous material. New bulbs are a lot more environmentally friendly and can be recycled"

Other ways to conserve include investing in your own digital camera, which you can use year round, rather than buying a disposable camera that will be discarded. And you can choose gifts that require little packaging, such as gift cards and tickets to events.

"We, as citizens, need to be environmentally aware and we need to reuse and redo the waste that we're putting in our landfill," Bowles said.

Take today's newspaper, for instance. That color comics section can easily be repurposed.

"I've just been to a party and somebody wrapped a gift with the comics paper," Bowles noted. "It was very attractive, an eye-catcher and started conversation. It's a great way to reuse that paper."

Other reusable ideas:

-- Include a charger and rechargable batteries with any electronic gifts;

-- Compost leftover food scraps, leaves and grass clippings;

-- Donate unwanted gifts to charity or have a yard sale;

-- Buy a Christmas tree that's in a container that you can plant later.

"They're easy to find," Bowles said of containerized Christmas trees. "You just need to go to a nursery and purchase one, and then it looks great in your yard when you plant it.

"You've helped the environment two different ways."

In the recycling area, keeping those cardboard boxes off the street is a personal and home safety measure.

Other recycling ideas include having recycling containers for aluminum, glass and plastic available for your guests at holiday parties and get-togethers and checking the labels on a gift to determine whether its made from recycled material.

And everyone will be looking for a resolution come New Year's Day. Bowles suggests a commitment to recycling throughout the year.

One thing that has disappeared, at least on the surface, are the Christmas tree recycling stations that KADB used to operate in January,

"We used to do that every year and then the state banned burying yard debris in the landfill," Bowles said. "That was the reason we did the project, so you wouldn't bury it. Now what happens is the city picks them up, no matter whether I collect them or you put them in your alley, and they take them to the inert landfill and grind them up and anybody can go out and get mulch who wants to, free of charge. So that need is gone."

The main thing, Bowles said, is to plan for the holidays with an eye toward conserving when possible.

"I think we all need to have it to brought to the forefront every year so we think about it all the time," she said.